Sometimes I love both the characters, and the way they get together.
I have chosen books in which the story's finished and the characters do get together: there are some couples I love but have not mentioned as they are NOT YET TOGETHER in ongoing serieseses...es (Kate and Curran in Ilona Andrews's Magic series, Derek and Chloe in Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series). There are some couples written by authors I know who I will leave out lest I be accused of partiality (even though Ravus and Val from Holly Black's Valiant are the best ever). There are some couples I love but who never actually became couples, which is a HORRIBLE TRAGEDY.
But those couples who do get together, and who are the best ever:
Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Of Course, Everyone Says That. My favourite example of attraction without Austen ever mentioning such a thing: even when Elizabeth hates Darcy, you notice how they talk to each other, zinging back and forth.
Maud and Sue, Sarah Waters's Fingersmith - They spend most of the book lying to each other. And being brilliant, one in a very intellectual and one in a very street-smart way. And through lies find truth, and love. In a library.
Kitty and Freddy, Georgette Heyer's Cotillion - She believes he's a complete fool, nice but only capable of thinking about his waistcoats. He believes she's an utter nuisance, nice but totally uninterested in fashion. All of London seems to believe he is sexless or gay or at the very least incapable of attracting a woman. His rakish cousin believes he can insult a lady in Freddy's presence. Everybody's wrong.
Gen and Irene, Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series - How do I put this? It's sort of like the Artful Dodger falling for Snow White's Evil Stepmother.
Sophie and Howl, Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle - A vain, cowardly Welsh wizard and a grumpy, practical hat-maker enchanted to look like an eighty-year-old lady. What could be more romantic? Again, they learn about each other through interacting: Sophie's impressions of Howl start off from Step 1) Cold-blooded murderer, eats hearts, to 2) Total idiot, in love with his own hair.
Laura and Sorry, Margaret Mahy's The Changeover. The best YA romance I have ever read, possibly the best YA I have ever read, and I will explain why. For this post was meant to be a no-holds-barred recommendation for The Changeover before I got carried away.
Laura Chant is a Maori-appearing girl in New Zealand with a blond mother and brother and an absent father. (The Maori-appearingness is a cool detail Mahy never goes into. I wish she did! But I find it awesome that it's there.) Sorensen Carlisle is a blond witch guy, which came as a bit of a shock to his all-female witch family.
Laura's on a mission to save her little brother. (UM. Apparently, I got the idea that was an awesome mission to be on from somewhere. Sorry, Margaret Mahy, that was unconscious. I can only blame how OVERPOWERINGLY AWESOME you are.) He's having the life sucked out of him by the creepiest toy shop owner in the world, and when Laura goes to Sorry for help, he thinks she's arrived because they have a ROMANTIC CONNECTION. Awkward!
Also turns out, only Laura herself can save her brother. Luckily, Laura is really awesome. In other news, Sorry is the least smooth operator in the history of time.
I have also decided to give you some SUMMARIES of these magnificent love tales.
ELIZABETH: I detest that man he is so PROUD.
DARCY: You have me there, less hot sister.
ELIZABETH: I hear he is also a blackguard, I have no choice but to engage him in scathing repartee.
DARCY: ... Your eyes are pretty.
ELIZABETH: Our hatred for each other is obvious to all, and I am glad!
DARCY: Let's get married!
ELIZABETH: SIR I DECLINE.
DARCY: *writes a letter proving his innocence*
ELIZABETH: Oh no, it seems I have been terribly PREJUDICED.
DARCY: Baby, I just saved your sister from eternal disgrace. And I have a HUGE... estate.
ELIZABETH: Tell me more about this estate.
SUE: I am the best thief in the whole world. Or I will be one day. This is my chance at a big double-cross, all I have to do is trick this innocent lady into marrying this mean dude.
MAUD: La, I am so innocent.
SUE: Aw, I feel bad. And she's so pretty.
MAUD: Sue, on wedding nights, does stuff go a little bit like - KISS KISS KISS!
SUE: So innocent! Also hot. Man, it's a shame to lock her in an asylum.
MAUD: Alas, Sue, for I have totally doublecrossed you, and now it is you who are to be locked in an asylum.
SUE: ... The hell you say I what...
MAUD: IN FAIRNESS SUSAN I REALLY THINK YOUR BEHAVIOUR IS ALSO NOT SO GREAT.
SUE: Time to orchestrate a break-out. And go kill Maud.
MAUD: Sue, I missed you!
SUE: Talk to the hand lady.
MAUD: Well, I have to be getting back to my library.
SUE: Wow it turns out everyone I ever loved was deceiving me. And Maud told me some more lies - out of LOVE! Beautiful love. Hi Maud I have found you in this library. Hi Maud, lookin' good, baby. What are you doing?
MAUD: Um, writing some naughty stories for publication?
SUE: Oh Maud. I think that given the fact we are both lying liars from broken homes, one of us with elite escape skills and the other amazing naughty story writing abilities, we should join forces and take over the world.
MAUD: Agreed! Awesome Victorian lady criminal romp is a go!
SUE: Libraries are sexy places.
KITTY: Alas, I am to be forced into marriage with one of my cousins. This is horrible! ... Excuse me while I go look out the window to check if sexy, sexy cousin Jack is here yet.
KITTY: Oh my God, sexy cousin Jack isn't coming! This actually IS horrible. I must show him I am a woman of SPIRIT. Cousin Freddy, notorious idiot, will you be fake engaged to me so I can go to London and SHOW Jack?
FREDDY: Dude. I don't want to show Jack anything. Aside from my new waistcoat. Do you like it?
KITTY: Freddy, I want to go to London, please please please. I REALLY WANT TO BUY SOME CLOTHES.
FREDDY: Fake engagement is on!
KITTY: I love London! Though I do seem to get into an awful lot of scrapes on account of my kind heart.
FREDDY: That's okay, I will fix those, on account of my also kind heart.
KITTY: You know Freddy, I don't know why everyone thinks you're an idiot, you're actually quite intel-
FREDDY: La la la I bashfully can't hear you! Waistcoats waistcoats waistcoats!
KITTY: You know, turns out in real life RAKES, like my SEXY COUSIN JACK, actually want to seduce and ruin innocent women. You know, maybe RAKES AREN'T SEXY AT ALL.
FREDDY: My, you have a good eye for colour. I like that in a woman.
KITTY: I have to help some more of my friends out of a scrape! Oh no, I forgot a vital thing!
JACK: I'll help you if you marry me.
KITTY: RAKES ARE THE WORST.
FREDDY: Hi Kitty, I brought you that thing you needed? Also a toothbrush.
KITTY: My hero!
JACK: Imma going to call you a ho, and what is Freddy going to do about it?
FREDDY: Imma PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE.
FREDDY: ... Oh my God, I am going to die. BUT IT'S ON, BUDDY.
KITTY: Oh la, I fear I may swoon. Freddy, you valiant champion, you must promise me under no circumstances to fight! Not because you would be killed, you understand. But because it would upset me. I am such a delicate lady. Did I mention, la?
FREDDY: ... you can marry Jack if it would make you happy.
KITTY: Jack makes me about as happy as yellow turbans on ladies make you!
FREDDY: Gosh, they are a hideous sartorial mistake! Oh Kitty, please be mine, so we can go shopping together always, and I can buy you jewels to complement your skin tone!
KITTY: I would love that! Careful of my bonnet, it is in the latest fashion.
FREDDY: I love you more than waistcoats.
GEN: There goes the Queen of Attolia, that hateful hellbeast. Hi Attolia, I'm in your kingdom stealing your miracle stone.
ATTOLIA: I poisoned my fiance you know. Why do you think it is a good idea to cross me?
GEN: I broke into your bedroom just to leave earrings by your bed. Mocking earrings.
ATTOLIA: I have hatched a cunning plan to catch you. And now I'm going to cut off your hand.
GEN: No, you're not, I am the hero of the story, and a master thief. There's no way - ow. OW.
ATTOLIA: Told you.
GEN: I am off to plot my revenge. It will involve kidnapping you and taking you away in a boat and threatening your life.
ATTOLIA: Well, crap.
GEN: Or... we could get married.
GEN: I love you! DID YOU LIKE MY EARRINGS. PLEASE SAY YES.
ATTOLIA: I cut off your hand.
VILLAIN: I have rescued you, Attolia. Are you not GRATEFUL?
ATTOLIA: So grateful! He is short and younger than me and missing a hand and crazy. By the way, do you like my new earrings?
VILLAIN: Very fetching!
ATTOLIA: They're a sign I'm going to doublecross you and marry Gen.
GEN: I'm so happy, my brilliantly deceitful love. As a wedding present to ourselves, shall I defeat all the troublesome nobles in your country by means of trickery, fashion, and brilliant swordplay?
ATTOLIA: Assuredly you may, my husband. Come visit me through our secret passageways and we'll do pillowplotting.
EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD: But... she cut off your hand.
GEN AND ATTOLIA: Every relationship has problems. Don't be a hater.
SOPHIE: Hello, I am your eighty year old cleaning lady.
HOWL: I could have wished for a sexier introduction.
SOPHIE: You should quit eating hearts.
HOWL: I don't eat hearts! Think of my trim figure. Now think of it some more. Excuse me, gotta get to a mirror, contemplate my own beauty.
SOPHIE: What do you do in the bathroom for five hours a day?
HOWL: MY HAIR. It's a work of art, baby. Art can't be rushed.
SOPHIE: Gotta clean up the bathroom and sort out the hair dyes.
HOWL: MY HAIR IS PINK OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD.
SOPHIE: The kingdom is in turmoil. You should save it.
HOWL: DID YOU NOT HEAR ME? PINK. PINK! OH GOD, MY ONE TRUE LOVE.
SOPHIE: I will help save the kingdom.
HOWL: Do you want to pretend to be my mom?
SOPHIE: I could have wished for a sexier undercover role.
HOWL: We have saved the day, due to our combined magics, your kind heart and me lying to myself about my own plans. God, I'm good!
SOPHIE: Yay, I am no longer eighty years old!
HOWL: Sophie, I want to ask you a very important question.
HOWL: My hair - is it a total mess?
LAURA: I sense that blond boy staring across the playground at me is a witch.
HER MOM: He's a boy.
SORRY: It's pretty complicated.
LAURA: When my baby brother is under magical attack, I know where to go for help!
SORRY'S MOTHER AND AUNTS: Laura Laura Laura we're so glad you've come, have some tea, have some cake, please marry Sorry and become a witch yourself!
LAURA: I can do that last one.
SORRY'S MOTHER: Please consider my son. His temper is a little uneven, but he has all his own teeth.
SORRY: Hey baby. I see you've... come on by. While here I am, lounging in my room in a dressing gown, like an eighteen year old Hugh Hefner.
LAURA: Are you going to kiss me?
SORRY: I am going to grab your boob!
LAURA: ... Very smooth, dude.
SORRY: This always worked for Hugh.
LAURA: Save my brother.
SORRY: IS THAT WHAT YOU CAME HERE FOR?
SORRY: What about my MANLY CHARMS? What about OUR CONNECTION?
LAURA: My baby brother is dying, dude. I don't have time for this. Laura out!
SORRY: I... what... my romance novels didn't cover girls acting like this.
LAURA: Is that my photo pinned up to a nudie poster?
SORRY: *shifty eyes*
LAURA: Creepy behaviour, my friend.
SORRY: My romance novels have just been LYING to me all this time, haven't they?
LAURA: Must save brother by becoming a witch.
SORRY: I will help you. I'm sorry about my behaviour from before. I am messed up by my childhood and also by having to apologise every time I introduce myself.
LAURA: Okay. Let's go on an adventure of self-discovery, complete with making out! Do you really read romance novels?
LAURA: Tell you what. You can keep my photo, but take down the gross poster.
LAURA: I have defeated evil with my new and awesome witchy abilities! What's next?
SORRY: Well, I have to pursue my career goals, and I care about you as a person and don't want to rush you into something you're not ready for. So I'm going away to college, and you're going to explore your magic powers and we're both going to grow up a bit.
READERS: This convinces me like no ending on a kiss ever could that they are TOTALLY MEANT TO BE.
As you can perhaps see, I don't seem to care for love at first sight at all! I do seem to care for people examining and taking apart classic 'romantic' ideas, and sensible ladies, and guys who don't care about stereotypes and are willing to embrace things like a) fashion, b) romance novels, c) awesome ladies. I like romance to take place in the midst of a ton of other stuff, like adventures, and crazy plots, because I like a couple with other stuff besides gazing at each others' beauty going on! I like people being equal but very different.
But what I like best of all, and what makes me believe most of all in a pairing, is seeing people communicate - use words rather than a Magical Love Connection to learn about each other, become real to each other. And in the process, to us.
So - words/Sarah forever! What are your favourite couples ever?